Aspen boys lose OT thriller
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
FORT COLLINS, Colo. ” Cory Parker had the ball and the game in his capable hands.
With 6.7 seconds remaining in overtime and his team trailing by two in Saturday’s state tournament third-place game against Eaton, Aspen coach Steve Ketchum’s diagrammed play produced the desired result. Parker rolled off a screen, found himself wide open at the top of the key and lined up a potential game winner from a few feet behind the 3-point arc.
But, as Ketchum would later say as he wiped tears from his eyes, some things are not meant to be.
Parker’s shot faded to the left and the Skiers’ hopes of a third-place finish faded to black. The 2007 state champion Reds, who trailed throughout, hung on for the 54-51 victory in a game that left players, coaches and spectators with little time to exhale.
This game should never have come down to one final shot, Ketchum said. Not when Aspen turned the ball over 25 times and missed 10 of its 16 free throw attempts ” all in the second half.
Despite their miscues ” and the fact Parker was relegated to the bench for the final 5 minutes, 25 seconds of the third quarter after picking up his fourth foul ” the Skiers (23-4) built an 11-point fourth-quarter lead. After the Reds mounted a furious comeback, they even had a wide-open look at a game-winning 3. But senior guard
Tommy Rittenhouse, who nailed a 3-pointer to bury Yuma in Thursday’s Great 8, couldn’t convert before the buzzer in a 45-all game.
“Coulda, woulda, shoulda,” Ketchum said. “We didn’t want to ever have to say that.”
The Skiers avoided the slow start that sealed their fate in Friday’s state semifinal against Faith Christian. After Eaton jumped out to a 6-2 lead, Parker nailed a shot in the corner and Michael Taylor tied the game with a dunk, then scored on the offensive glass. The senior, who had just one shot attempt and two points Friday, finished with 15 despite playing the bulk of the game with three fouls.
Taylor went to the bench after picking up his third foul four minutes before the half in a 15-all game. Aspen didn’t wilt, but instead ended the quarter on a 6-2 run fueled by two key shots from Brian Westerlind, who finished with 12 points and seven rebounds.
Eaton did its part to help the Skiers’ cause, too. Junior Seth Lobato scored 12 points in the first half, but the rest of the Reds’ roster did little else. Perennial double-figure scorer Cody Ball missed all 10 of his shot attempts and had just one point. Eaton hit just five field goals and shot 19 percent from the floor.
Play remained tight in the third quarter, despite Parker’s foul trouble. He picked up his third when he reached in for an attempted steal with 5:47 remaining and, 22 seconds later, he was whistled for a seemingly innocuous collision with an Eaton player after a made basket.
“We were both running down court, and he kicked my foot and fell,” said Parker, who finished with 16. “I stuck my hand out to help him out, so it looked like I pushed him down.
“I had my head in my hands several times. I hate watching when I know I could be out there helping the team and being productive.”
Aspen maintained its four-point lead in Parker’s absence, in large part because of reserve Trevor Watson, who scored five consecutive points in the final two minutes.
Parker was reinserted at the start of the fourth in a 32-28 game, and the Skiers immediately went on the attack. In three minutes, their lead ballooned to 11.
Turnovers and missed free throws came back to bite them, however, as Eaton closed the fourth on a 13-2 run to force overtime. Reds guard Lance Korell, who was scoreless in the first half, scored 17 points and hit four clutch 3’s in the final 16 minutes of regulation.
Aspen missed all five of its attempts from the line in the fourth quarter.
“The two most important things in basketball are turnovers and free throws,” Ketchum said. “We did bad at both of them. … We had great moments and great effort, but we didn’t do what we needed to do to win.”
After Lobato finished underneath to tie the game at 45, Aspen called a timeout with 41.4 seconds on the clock. They proceeded to hold for the last shot. With Parker being shadowed, guard Matthew Holmes spotted Rittenhouse on the wing for the wide open look.
The ball bounded off the rim.
“You can ask for a better look than that,” Ketchum said. “I really hope [Rittenhouse] remembers the shot he made against Yuma, not this one.”
Lobato sank a free throw with 1:34 to play in overtime to break a 51-all deadlock.
Less than one minute later, Rittenhouse’s attempted pass to Parker was picked off and Ball was fouled. He missed the front end of the 1-and-1 but alertly chased after and corraled the rebound. He was fouled again with 35.5 seconds to play and promptly hit his first free throw ” his only point.
Aspen pushed the ball up court and called a timeout with 21 seconds to play. Parker made a strong move in the paint, but the ball was knocked out of play with 6.7 seconds remaining.
Parker lost Lobato on a screen and was left alone at the top of the key. After his attempt veared off line, Parker stood motionless, hunched over with his hands on his knees.
“I had a great look and the play was executed to perfection,” Parker said. “I kind of rushed it.”
The All-State player of the year candidate has hit many shots in a career that could go down as the best in school history. He said he’ll be able to overlook his miss.
“It’s tough, but to go from being captain of a team that came from losing in the first round of regionals to going to Final Four, I consider that a good job,” Parker said. “I’ll have time to look back and say that my four years have gotten me to play ball at
Drake, which means I did some things right.”
Some things are not meant to be, Ketchum said. Being the fourth-best team in
Colorado does, however, soften the disappointment.
“It’s an unbelievable accomplishment,” Parker added. “Fourth in the state. That sounds pretty good.”
David Stapleton is the development officer for the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club. A product of the club, AVSC sat down with Stapleton for a Q&A session in this week’s Clubhouse Chronicles.